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Dr. Tori Hudson, Portland, Oregon, Blog Healthline Blog

Douching is quite common among US women, especially African American528436578 women, despite previous research demonstrating negative health outcomes such as pelvic inflammatory disease and ectopic pregnancy.

In the current prospective cohort study, researchers investigated whether douching or genital use of talcum powder was predictive of an increased risk for ovarian cancer. This was done in about 50,000 women who had a sister with breast cancer.

After an average follow-up of 7 years, 154 women were diagnosed with ovarian cancer. Women who had reported douching at the baseline of the study, had a significantly higher risk for ovarian cancer, with a hazard ratio of 1.8. The use of talc was not associated with the development of ovarian cancer.

Commentary: Vaginal douching disturbs the normal vaginal flora and may impair the local immune system defense mechanisms. In addition, environmental toxins such as phthalates are higher in women who douche. Any reason that a woman may think she needs to douche can be solved in other ways. If infections, then there are vaginal and/or oral treatments, both conventional and natural; if for hygiene reasons, there are other methods including vaginal suppositories, enhanced personal washing, and perhaps getting more comfortable with what could be normal odors. A strong fishy odor is likely related to a vaginal infection, and can be tested and treated appropriately. Women should be encouraged not to douche. If they resist this advice, then I would advise tap water.

Reference: Gonzalez N, et al. Douching, talk use, and risk of ovarian cancer. Epidemiology 2016 June 20.

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